Blount Mansion (34)


200 West Hill Avenue

Described as the first frame house built west of the Appalachians, Blount Mansion is one of the oldest houses in the Southern interior. Built in 1792, to serve as the home of William Blount (1749–1800), governor of the Southwestern Territory and signer of the U.S. Constitution, it was reportedly planned to please his wife Mary Grainger Blount. The plan of the house was simple: a central hall with a main room for family activities and a parlor for formal gatherings with stairs that lead to one large room for sleeping. The west wing was added to the main house and is thought to have been a nearby outbuilding, pulled from its foundation and affixed to the house. The east wing was added later, around 1820. From the date of its completion, the home became the center of political, civil, military, and social activity for the entire territory.

Blount entertained French nobles, including future Citizen King Louis Philippe, and Cherokee chiefs here in the “Mansion” allegedly known to the Indians, who had never seen glass windows before, as “the House with Many Eyes.” Blount was still governor at the time of the organization of the state of Tennessee, whose constitution was drawn up in Blount’s office. Blount became one of Tennessee’s first two U.S. senators, but his career soon turned dark as it was revealed that he was behind a bizarre plot to foment a war with Spain for the purpose of Great Britain obtaining the Louisiana territory. Hounded from office, Blount hid here until charges of treason were dropped. He died here at what he called his “piazza” in 1800.

The house was prominent through much of the 19th century, home to Knoxville Mayor Samuel Beckett Boyd. His relative, Confederate spy Belle Boyd, seeking safety, stayed here for part of 1863. Confederate Gen. Johnston introduced her to a crowd from the house’s balcony, since removed. Derelict for some years, it was almost demolished for a parking lot in 1925 but was saved with the help of Hill Avenue neighbor Mary Boyce Temple, who gave the final $100 for its preservation—a gesture that is regarded as the founding of Knoxville’s preservationist movement. Blount Mansion is the only building in Knox County to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.

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